Before I begin, I will say one thing. Regardless of if you are pro-Brexit or pro-Remain, please read this. Read every single word, even if it is only to prove to yourself that I am wrong. There has been far too much of people dismissing other people’s points of view because they don’t like them already. So read every word. And then tell me why you think I’m wrong.
Five months ago, British people went out and voted. They voted for whether they would like to remain in the EU or leave, and the result was narrow. But, however narrow the decision, it was made – Brexit is going to happen.
I was not happy about. I was not happy that the British people had decided to make my life more difficult. I voted Remain because I wanted to be able to hop on a plane and visit my sister and baby nephew in Portugal at a moment’s notice. I voted Remain because I like being able to travel freely around Europe and being able to experience what Europe has to offer without restriction. I voted Remain because I liked that fact that my parents in N. Ireland could hop over the border to Ireland without having to plan it ahead of time. I voted for political and economical reasons too, but those are not really pertinent to what I have to say here.
I voted Remain because I like being free to go where I want to go, work where I want to work, absorb another country’s culture without fear of being unfairly ejected from it. Basically, I voted Remain because I love being a European citizen.
But not everyone feels that way. Fair enough, I understand that. People think that Britain is better off on its own.
But here is the fundamental issue I have. People wanted out of the EU because they claimed it was counter-intuitive and undemocratic. They wanted to make big changes and they think that leaving the EU is the biggest change they can make. But the thing is there is something rotten in our own system of democracy. A basic unfairness that needs to be addressed.
So, if you voted for Brexit because you wanted to make a big change, read very carefully. Because, if you really want to make Britain great, you haven’t even scratched the surface yet…
Until recently, I worked in the care industry. As part of that, I dealt with various people with various levels of mental health problems – in most cases learning difficulties. Now, if a person with learning difficulties wanted to take up smoking, healthcare professionals would be required, by law, to comply with the Mental Health Act (a British Act of Parliament) and undertake an investigation as to whether that student has the capacity to make this decision…
What does that even mean? Well, in order to have capacity, the person must be able to prove that they are able to take in, absorb, understand and remember the implications and risks of any action they may wish to take. If they don’t have capacity, it would be up to a selection of healthcare professionals and people who have family ties to the student to decide, on their behalf, whether it is in their best interests.
Now let me repeat that. For someone to take up smoking, or even go to the shops on their own or go out with a girl, the Mental Health Act requires that they have to be able to prove that they can take in, absorb, understand and retain information pertinent to it. That is for something that most of us consider relatively simple.
Now, technically, that Act can apply to anyone, not just those diagnosed with mental illnesses.
However, when it came to the referendum, there were no such restrictions. No one who voted had to prove that they had even read a single word of any literature published on the subject. Someone could have turned up at the voting booths drunk as a skunk or high as a kite and (as long as they could make it to the booth) they still would have been allowed to vote. We didn’t need to prove that we understood all the implications. We didn’t need to show we were capable of retaining anything we had learnt or create a reasoned argument. All we needed to do is prove that we were 18 years old or older and that we lived in a place that made us eligible to vote. That’s it.
Now, I know what you’re going to say.
Most people aren’t suffering from mental illnesses. We’re not like those people in care facilities.
Unfortunately, that’s not the point. The point is that someone with a mental health disability has to be able to prove that they can absorb, retain and understand the risks. But whenever we go out to vote – and I don’t just mean the referendum, I mean general and local elections too – we don’t have to prove diddly squat. We don’t have to have read or understood anything. If we want, we can just put a cross next to box that we’ve picked at random like a somewhat boring version of pin the tail on the donkey.
Now, if you voted Brexit, you are probably feeling a little annoyed by now. Don’t be, I’m not suggesting that you have a mental health problem because of how you voted. But what I will say is that I haven’t met a person who voted Brexit (since the election) who has treated my concerns with any compassion or understanding. In fact, most people I’ve spoken to, have disregarded my concerns altogether by saying ‘you lost, get over it.’
Now, to me, that suggests that those people have not understood or retained the full implications of what it is to vote Brexit. They haven’t understood or cared about how the impact it will have on my life or the lives of people who thrive being part of the European community. So, as they gallop towards their Article 50 revocation, they do so without considering that I, and 48% of the country, are completely losing out by this happening.
Let me put it another way, if Remain had won the referendum, how up in arms would you Brexiters have been if we completely ignored every single concern you brought to the argument? You’d be furious. And that is precisely why so many Remainers are furious now. Just because they narrowly lost the referendum, they are being ignored and their opinions are being completely disregarded.
Since when would that lead to anything other than conflict and bitterness? Is that the Great Britain you are trying to build? One torn apart by petty factionalism and dismissive elitism?
What I’m basically trying to say is that, I am currently a European citizen. I like being a European citizen but I understand that a majority don’t. So, when you are laying down your plans for separating from the EU, please take a moment to remember that anyone under the age of twenty-five was born an EU citizen and the rest of us have been EU citizens for 25 years (in my case that is still the majority of my lifetime). By all means, go ahead with Brexit, but please find the time to consider the other half of the country.
Please take the time to consider the majority of born EU citizens who, by virtue of the fact that they are under 18, were not allowed their say in the referendum. And at least, put something into the Brexit agreement that allows them some way of keeping hold of that citizenship.
According to some figures published, the yearly amount given to the EU by Britain is £200 per person. I’ll be honest, my wife and I would gladly pay £200 each a year to remain European citizens, so what do you have to lose by making it happen? Even if the numbers are wrong and it ends up being a larger amount, if you make that one thing happen then you are at least giving us the choice. You’ll have happy citizens who are allowed the choice between single British nationals or dual EU-Brit citizenship. A lot of the back-and-forth arguments stop. It really is win-win.
I like being British. I like being European. All I’m asking is don’t make me choose between them.
UPDATE: Since posting this, I’ve had a number of people ‘suggest’ that my reasons for wanting this are narrow minded. In response I would have to say, yes my reasons for wanting dual citizenship are not reasons that every person in the UK will share. But my reasons aren’t actually what this is about. I am proposing a solution where half the country doesn’t feel like it’s missing out whilst the Brexiters still get what they want so that we can stop our internal factionalism and bitterness. This is a contrast to the current Brexit plan that will only cater to the needs of the other half. I respectfully suggest that I am not the one being narrow minded here.